on 30 January 2009
One of the odd things about trying to describe New York's Vampire Weekend, isn't who has influenced them the most, but the sheer diversity of the various influences. The African rhythms on their 2008 debut album smack of Zimbabwe's Bhundu Boys or The Four Brothers; while lead vocalist Ezra Koenig's delivery reminds of Sting from The Police's 'Regatta de Blanc' period. However, there's a touch of Broadway show tunes in there, some baroque quartet and even some Brandenburg Concerto Bach. Whatever the influences, the Noo Yawk proto-punk style has been completely re-imagined with ambiguous lyrics about delightfully esoteric subjects. Most of the references are so obscure you are left scratching your head wondering what it could all mean, so it's best to just let the whole wash over you and enjoy the quirky pop sensibilities and addictive tunes.
Seriously, there's nothing not to like here!
I must be getting old because I bought this after reading a review in the Grauniad!!! But no regrets here- it's fun, quirky pop that put me in a spring mood, probably because of the reggae/Afro rhythms that permeate the tracks. The most obvious comparison that sprang to mind for me was actually with the Beatles because, like a Beatles album, the tracks are all a bit original and eccentric.
on 12 February 2008
Vampire Weekend are the latest New York band being tipped as "the ones to watch" by those in the know. Here, they've delivered an album full of bouncy, somewhat quirky pop songs with bags of melody and 'smarter-than-you' lyrics and New England references that makes the bands 'preppyness' pretty obvious.
Because of their well-to-do social background, The Strokes have become an easy comparison to make for music journos, but Vampire Weekends sound is less retro, less guitary and less spikey. The emphasis here is on light, melodic pop tunes with a bit of Afro-beat thrown in (hence the other easy comparison, Paul Simon). It's a record that doesn't sound like much else out there, and the band seems to be having a good time themselves, which transmits to the listener.
Aside from the excellently odd single "Mansard Roof" which has been doing the rounds for a few months now, the highlights for me are new single "A-Punk", possibly the most energetic track on the album, "Campus", a straightforward happy-go-lucky ditty and the Graceland-esque "Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa", which is quite possibly the most melodious, bounciest track I've heard in years (and it also name-checks Peter Gabriel for good measure).
This is an album for sunny weather. I doubt it will become the first CD you reach for during those introspective, thoughtful moments, however, put this on before a night out and it's guaranteed to put a smile on your face.
on 3 January 2009
I caught onto Vampire Weekend a little late, thanks to an Amazon reccomendation. Very glad I got there in the end! This is a very, very good CD that makes it into the 5 star rating thanks to the strength of the best of the songs, rather than the entire body of work which would Vampire Weekendstill have got it a 4. First couple of plays I wasted time playing 'spot the influence'. That was untimately futile as, other than the obvious Paul Simon Graceland influence on a couple of tracks, these songs are very good in their own right. What does the inspiration matter as long as the songs are INSPIRED? I read a press review comparing them to Madness which I consider to be VERY misleading. The Mads are a kind of musical comedy act, while these guys have a sense of humour but are seriously good. Favourite tracks are 'Oxford Comma', 'Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa', 'One' (Blake's got a new face)and 'Walcott'.
on 17 April 2011
Upon my first encounter to Vampire Weekend (on Jools Holland, sometime in 2008) I dismissed them. Why? It was probably due to the choice swearing on Oxford Comma; which I perceived to flippantly belittle English grammar. Also, concededly, I disliked (or maybe I just didn't quite `get') the African rhythms that the band employed. Or maybe it was Ezra Koenig's delivery that grated. Either way, I was made to rue my detrimental views towards them several years later, especially after my discovery and subsequent infatuation with another preppy, whimsical group with a taste for exotic rhythms (that band being Talking Heads, of course).
A family friend, quite bizarrely, had the album on in her car driving back from the village shop (not at all representative of my weight and overall laziness, I should stress, but I digress) Hearing the album from `Campus' onwards somehow made it more accessible. The track itself, with its shuffling bassline and more immediate chorus somewhat whetted my appetite. The cascading guitars of `Bryn' and the synth washes amidst the off-kilter rhythms of `Blake's Got a New Face' also instigated my intrigue. Then, of course, the car journey abruptly ended and I listened no more.
Eventually, I did give the album a listen in full; and I was astounded by the band's fully-formed cohesion and musical vision. It is simply a set of concise, cerebral, punchy and musically accomplished songs (and not a complete rip-off of Paul Simon's Graceland, as a fair few lazy reviewers are apt to point out). The band combines obscure lyricism with chamber-pop, reggae and African musical influences. This formula on paper sounds artificial; being arty and clever for the sake of mixing genres and, well, being difficult. Yet the band's genuine affinity for these genres, as well as the effortless way they assemble them into their own definitive sound, only makes their debut more convincing.
Opener `Mansard Roof' is possibly the song most indicative of the album's sense of fun and absurdity. The random, but well-placed organ stabs at the beginning make for an unconventional opening. The outlandish lyrics add a sense of mystery and playfulness, with images of French architecture and (seemingly) the Falklands War sitting uncomfortably together.
On second thoughts, Oxford Comma is a brilliant pop song. Aside from the affecting, and relatively direct, lyric in the chorus: ("Through the pain, I always tell the truth") the song's effectual backbeat is matched by the magnificent crescendo towards the end.
`A-punk' is even more catchy. Its spidery riff and `Oh!' chants may have doomed the song to many a drunken indie dance-floor for at least the next decade, but all this is counter-balanced by some deft flutes courtesy of a mellotron in the bridge. Its brevity, at a refreshing 2.18, encapsulates the band's sheer effectiveness.
`Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa' sans the arbitrary Peter Gabriel references, is pure nonsensical fun. `M79' is perhaps the only reggae-infused baroque pop song in existence, and certainly the only one to be glorious.
There is, however, a detectable lull in the second half, with `I Stand Corrected' and `Walcott' perhaps overstaying their welcome a little too long. But this makes perfect sense, gearing up towards the finale: `The Kids Don't Stand a Chance'. If there is any song on this album that epitomises Vampire Weekend's promise, it is this. Initially, it appears not to be as exciting as the shorter songs on the album, but the song can be categorised as a slow-burner. The sparse bassline and the snare drum kicks are the soundtrack to more dissociation lyrics in the verses. But soon this develops into a majestic, elegant closer; an aural picture matching the grandeur of the chandelier depicted on the sleeve. Sweetly picked guitar merges with a swooning orchestral arrangement, where cracking drums are offset by ornate flourishes of harpsichord. It seems illogical that something so exhilarating could be so delicate, but this is testament to the giftedness of this four-piece. As they say themselves: "The precedent's already set now".
on 24 December 2008
Vampire Weekend are that breath of fresh air needed this year. Don't get me wrong, it wasn't a stale year but an injection of witty, literate and cheery music makes the world go round. A group of graduates whom met whilst studying at Columbia University, their music is an insight into the community they lived in.
Now to somehow sum up the sound they conjured up in their dorm rooms. It is difficult not to mention the African vibe. How Paul Simon sounded in his Graceland recording years, you could expect this to be his and Badly Drawn Boy's love child. Full of reggae organs and tribal drums, on "Mansford Roof" especially, this light and optimistically charged album is wonderful to listen to.
On "Oxford Comma" little nods to this heritage come from with lyrics "Why would I lie you must call me Al", which is witty, clever and a little obscure. On another track, "Feels so un-natural, Peter Garbriel too" gives another hint to the music echoing around the dorm. I love this intellect on record, which is where I draw the Badly Drawn Boy link from.
The aforementioned "Mansford Roof", "Oxford Comma" and "A-Punk" are outstandingly good. The album doesn't rest on a song for too long either, most 2:30-3:30 in length, keeping the listener engaged and aware of the rush of influences that await. On "A-Punk" the Strokes can be heard in the bass and guitar, not the first or last time comparisons to the Strokes can be heard.
The album continues with possible the most obvious Graceland track "Cape Code Kwassa Kwassa", before spinning off on a string quartet led "M79". The album is full of hits - "One", "I Stand Corrected" and "Walcott" see this album out as strongly as it began.
The album is wonderful in it's inventiveness, the bold choice of tracks and influences and the courage to release such a statement to the blinkered masses. This is what new music should be about and why music can be such a inspiration.
on 19 December 2008
The first I heard of this band was A-Punk as the ring tone on someone's phone and tbh I found it really annoying. It's such a simple rift and I immediately thought it was another one of those indie bands with simple and boring fast rifts that everyone seems to get into. However, I was wrong.
To put it simply, after hearing this album there is nothing else I want to listen to right now. It is an album I can sit down and enjoy every song, even holding up on repeat listenings...so far. That said, not every song really hits you, it's just nice to listen to.
What I really appreciate with this band is that they've used instruments and sound layers sparingly which is refreshing. There are no pointless droning full chords and there's no booming base underneath everything - every note is purposeful.
I don't know about whether it's 'soweto' exactly but there is obviously a lot of african influence. I've also noticed the classical influence in there every now and then, not just in the instrument choice but because of the chord sequences, accompanying melodies (organ), and the start and ending of the songs. Rhythmically it's quite interesting cos there's a lot of classical straight rhythms in the tuned instruments accompanied by african syncopation in the percussion instruments.
The album overall is incredibly uplifting. The general feeling is of being completely carefree I guess. Along with the style, this sets them apart from any other music around.
As for the poor reviews on amazon I can understand why a lot people won't like certain aspects of it. Firstly, I believe the hype surrounding this album is justified but it might lead you to some false assumptions about what type of music it will be or how the music will make you feel anyway. The music is good and extremely artistic but it isn't powerful or heavily emotional music as hyped albums often are. Many parts of some of the songs are quite powerful but most of the time it's just quirky and easy going, which might be a supprise to people who have been listening to the hype. Secondly, when I first listened to it, because of how upbeat it is, it comes across as...not in tune with your own emotions I guess. Lastly, a good reason not to like it would be because you hate the band itself - out of envy or just because of the preppyness.
It's a great record and I feel some-what ignorant for not finding out about these guys a year ago like everyone else. Go buy it.
on 12 July 2008
I had never heard of Vampire Weekend until I heard my daughter playing the LP of the same title. Always on the look out for interesting music and bands that try to do something new, I was immediately attracted to what I was hearing. She went on to tell me that the group is an Indie rock band from New York city. Vampire weekend is an exciting debut LP by a four-piece band whom I believe burst on the scene in 2006.
Whatever the music is called, what I find interesting in Vampire Weekend is that they produce an exciting and to some extent refreshing blend of rock, punk, and African sounds and rhythms. Every now and again it is good to hear a band producing and performing pop music that tries to do something different other than the usual bash of guitars and screams into a micro phone that we get from many an over rated pop band.
The music is very energetic it makes you want to get up, jump up and dance. The lead vocals by Ezra Koenig are quirky but at the same time edearing. Vampire Weekend play a broad range of instruments from the expected guitars to harpsicord. They write their own lyrics and had a hand in the production and string arrangements. Listen to the track M79 and you soon realise that the blend of rock and classical sounds renders this band as a huge talent among mediocrity.
It's a pleasure to hear a new band producng something new. In my view Vampire Weekend has also achieved a rare feat in that I believe the LP appeals to a wide age range. This is a very good debut LP: buy it and I am sure like me you will enjoy it.
on 10 July 2008
This album turned out to be an unexpected hit for me, because I don't usually like short songs. It's a perfect soundtrack for a Summer that were just not having at the moment. You can imagine playing vollyball at he beach to some of these songs. It lasts a grand total of 34 mins which is fairly short really (all though there is a clic album that lasts 29 mins).
'Mansard roof' is probaly the best song on the album, but 'Walcott' and 'A-Punk' are not far behind. If you want an album with clever lyrics and intrecant music then isn't probly not for you. But it's got a very destinct style and a cheeky edge.
Best songs: Mansard roof, Walcott, A-Punk and Bryn
Worst song: Kid's don't stand a chance
Oh and by the way there not screamo like there name sujests
on 17 July 2008
Truly an excellent and exciting record. It seemed worth adding a comment just to say that the much-hyped African graceland influence of this band is somewhat over-emphasised. True, on one or two tracks, it's very obvious and a key part of the sound (Cape Cod). But to be honest, it's a bit of a red herring. For the most part, this is a quirky melodic original and catchy pop album brimming with ideas (how about a comparison of early Police meets the more commercial side of Pavement?). Perhaps some of the negative reactions are because this band really is hard to categorise - so inevitably, people may feel let down if it's not what they expected.